Pemphigus encompasses a group of life-threatening autoimmune blistering disorders characterized by intraepithelial blister formation. The molecular basis for intraepithelial blister formation is the loss of adhesion between kerati-nocytes, called acantholysis, which is caused by auto-Ab against intercellular adhesion structures of epidermal keratinocytes. Clinically, PV is characterized by extensive bullae and erosions of the mucous membranes and also of the skin (in case that anti-Dsgl auto-Ab are also present). Patients with untreated PV are prone to infections, loss of body fluids and proteins and to weight loss due to painful oral and esophageal erosions. The prognosis of PV was fatal prior to introduction of systemic glucocorticoids and adjuvant immunosuppressive agents as the standard treatment. Several forms of pemphigus have been identified depending of the level of the intraepidermal split formation. In PV, the blisters are located in the suprabasal layer whereas in PF, a clinically less severe disease, the blisters occur within the upper layers of the epidermis. In PV and PF, the auto-Ab target the extracellular portions of

Dsg3 and Dsgl, respectively. Auto-Ab production in PV and PF is polyclonal and most auto-Ab are of the IgG4 subclass in acute onset or active disease. Patients in remission have mainly auto-Ab of the IgGl subtype. Evidence for the pathogenicity of these circulating auto-Ab is provided by the observation that 1) the activity of PV correlates with auto-Ab titers, 2) newborns of mothers with active PV temporarily exhibit blisters due to the diaplacentar transfer of maternal auto-Ab, and 3) pemphigus-like lesions are induced in neonatal mice by transfer of IgG from PV patients. The major therapeutic strategy in pemphigus is chronic immunosuppressive therapy with glucocorticosteroids in combination with immunosuppressive adjuvants.


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